The creeks in the remote island off Columbia flowed like spilt dark wine
through the jade-colored canyons to meet the sea. Speeding over, I saw alpine
meadows covered with wildflowers and lakes so deep and black that they looked
like the sunken eyes of the earth itself. Set by an emerald moat of salt water,
it was highly likely that few had treaded the island.
It was awesome indeed but I had come not to admire its beauty but to see the
My guide and companion in boating and bushwhacking for the next
ten days, Lenny insisted that the coast was in the grip of a dry spell and that
was why we had not spotted any bear, black or white. He believed there were only
5 to 15 white bears which shared the island with some 100 black ones as well as
otters and eagles.
"Rain swells the creek so salmons can spawn. But now the
creeks are too shallow for the salmons and the bears are hiding in the bushes,
feeding on huckleberries and skunk cabbage," Lenny tried to comfort me as I
packed my duffle bag for home. Between white rocks and white driftwood logs, I
had spent my first few days seeing imaginary white
bears by the dozen. All I had seen of the white ghost for the last
couple of days were a few snowy hairs on a tree where it had scratched its back.
As we were southbound on our motorboat, down a narrow channel between the island
and the mainland, I gazed in the wilderness, chanting eagerly, "Show me a white
bear; show me a sign." I swear this litany was in my head when a round whitish
boulder suddenly grew a head and turned to stare at our boat. When it grew legs
and ambled over to the river, I thought I was hallucinating. Hands trembling, I
trained my binoculars on it to be sure.
Against the background of the forest,
his creamy white fur shone with a strange lustre, like polished ivory set in an
emerald. "Bear ! White bear !" I blurted out in sheer excitement.
is," Lenny grinned, squinting hard.
Whitey sat on his rump on the rocks and
scratched behind his ear with one foot. Perhaps perplexed by our interest, he
peered at us, then turned his back and casually wandered up. Splashing into the
stream, he swam across and walked into the forest. I felt a great rock of
previous disappointment lift off my head. I was in seventh heaven.